5 Tips for better Black and White editing

A minimalism black and white photo can be interesting but the way editing it is quite different to usual photos of Landscape or Astro. Here’re some of the adjustments I usually make when processing a black and white photo, and I hope these tips will help you in improving your photos.

If you are interested in capturing the long exposure clouds using ND filter, you can check out the blog post that I wrote previously. https://greychow.com/usendfilter/

Without wasting any more time, let’s start with the first tip. 😀

Tip #1 – Edit the sky separately

Have you ever wonder why the sky in those Black and White photos always darker than the subject? This is because the sky was heavily darkened down during the post-processing. This helps to isolate the subject and make it stand out from the background, the sky.

ere’s a before and after comparison, you can see that sky already darkened after the editing.

To do that, you need first to separate the sky from the photo. The most straightforward method to do that is to use a Polygonal Lasso tool. There are other better ways, but those are more complicated, so let’s start with the Polygonal Lasso tool first.

With the Polygonal Lasso tool selected, you draw lines around the edge of your subject to create a selection that selects only the sky.

Now, you can use a Curve Adjustment Layer to darken the sky. with a layer mask that restricts the adjustment only to the sky

Tip #2 – Incremental adjustment

Although you can use one Curve Adjustment Layer to darken the sky, I would suggest you use a few of the adjustment layers with each having a more subtle adjustment.

Then at each adjustment, you can decide how much adjustment you want to make to the photo and makes necessary finetuning based on the adjusted result.

The above photo shows a list of Curve Adjustment Layers. They are all used to darken the sky with each of them adjusted incrementally for a more natural result.

This method allows you to have better control of your adjustment and to produce a more natural result. It is often easy to make your photo overcooked with applying strong effect using a single adjustment.

Tip #3 – Adding depth

When we talk about adding depth in a Black and White photo, I’m referring to the “Contrast” of the photo. Contrast is the different visual ratio of different tones in a photo. But instead of using boost up the contrast of the whole photo. You can separate your photo into different parts and then adding a different level of contrast to those parts separately.

Refer to the above photo, I created selections based on those highlighted areas, and then make adjustments to each of them. The top left photo is before the adjustment. Below is how the photo looked like after the adjustment.

Tip #4 – Adding light to the peak of your subject

For photos with pointing up angle like this, I would add lights to the top of the subject to make it brighter than the rest of the photo. This is to recreate a scene of lighting coming down from the top and also helps draw the viewer’s attention to the centre of the frame.

Also, this will add a sense of the depth in your photo, with a transition from dark to bright.

You can either use the gradient tool, dodge and burn tool or both to do the task.

Tip #5 – Vignette is king

Last tip! Unlike photos of Landscape or Astro, a black and white photo has a better tolerance for a heavy vignette. Especially for a photo with minimalism composition. It makes your subject or a part of your subject stand out from the frame by surrounding it with the dark.

Notice how heavy vignette helps to emphasize the lights that fall on the cables.

That’s all for this blog post. Feel free to let me know if you have any question about Black and White photography. 🙂

If you are interested to learn from me, you can check out my latest Long Exposure Black and White Photography Workshop HERE.

lease feel free to share this post if you enjoy reading it! :)

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